In a week where disruption, anger and angst was caused amongst the capital's commuters after the much maligned London Underground strike, I found myself far more aggrieved with an advertisement that adorned the district line carriage than I did with the overcrowded train taking me to Wapping.
The advert had the words "I wish I had breast cancer" as the headline and my immediate thought was that this must be some disguised promotional campaign for breast cancer itself. In some ways it was. However, further reading told me that in fact, this was a part of a campaign to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer. The hard hitting "sell" of the advertorial, along with the emotive photograph of a dying patient, was seemingly attempting to convey how those suffering from pancreatic cancer would wish that they could effectively swap their cancer for either breast cancer, testicular cancer or cervical cancer; all of which have stronger survival rates than pancreatic. I got it. I understood the "message" and am well aware that one of the prime objectives within an advertisement of this nature is often to shock. However, I feel that "they" (i.e. those who commissioned the advert) delivered their message with the wrong tone and approach. No cancer is the same for any two patients and statistics, which this campaign relies so heavily on for its justification, bare no relevance to the individual, for every single patient has the ability to set prescience with their own illness and thus become their own statistic.
There has been much discussion surrounding this advert within the media and editorial spectrum over the past couple of weeks and, i'm adamant that this was a key objective of the campaign - to get people talking - and will subsequently be viewed as a successful campaign. The age-old adage of there being 'no such thing as bad publicity' immediately springs to mind. I feel that the people at the centre of these illnesses are the ones who are indeed being poorly portrayed and represented. Whilst you cannot hide behind the scientific and statistical facts that support the mortality rate of those suffering pancreatic cancer, I do not feel that comprising a campaign for a purely hypothetical 'wish-list' and 'swapsie' scenario is the best way forward. Instead, this could potentially cause friction amongst those who fundraise for the cause and not to mention disharmony between cancer patients themselves.
Quite simply there is no winner with cancer. Indeed if there were wishes given out to patients with pancreatic cancer I'm sure they would opt to not have cancer at all as opposed to wish they could switch their illness with another seemingly more favourable disease. This may seem somewhat futile to say, but it is perhaps no more futile than the fruitless ideology of being able to switch and replace one cancer for another.
Having both experienced cancer first-hand as well as having spent many hours speaking, helping, consoling and interacting with others battling a vast array of different malignancies, I have found that no matter what cancer one is battling to overcome it will undoubtedly bring stress, trauma, anxiety, tremendous sadness and in many cases loss. Cancer patients unite in their battle for each battle is personal to them. No one should ever feel the need to consider themselves a statistic as a patient but an individual instead. The name and type of a disease is personal to each person, an affiliation, sense of ownership or identity can often be made with the illness, one that a patient, their friends, family or loved one will hold with themselves forever. Therefore, a campaign that seemingly promotes a hierarchy or leader board of success really hits a sour note in my opinion. I found myself left feeling how I'd much rather have read about what the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are and how likely it is that one can develop the illness.
I realise that such an advert would more than likely not have made me write this blog - and I'm only too happy to help in this very small way promote pancreatic cancer and the need for more awareness, I just personally wouldn't choose to go tribal with a disease that can ultimately tear families apart, no matter what the type or classification.
For more information about pancreatic cancer visit www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk
Every single patient has the ability to set prescience with their own illness and thus become their own statistic
How using shock tactics to promote an advertising campaign risks making a tribal war with cancer patients
Bpositive Support & Information blog
A mixture of insightful comments, posts and general 'blogging' from various Bpositive contributors